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Mielikki watched him curiously. “As I have never shadow walked before, I must ask what I should do to prepare for it.”
“Well, we’re not coming back for a while, so do you have everything you think you might need while we’re there?”
She twisted slightly to show him the pokepack she had on. “I do. Anything else I can create.” She smiled. “For food, I believe you said we would be hunting so I presumed that we could eat what we hunted.”
“We definitely will eat them. If you’re ready, then you take my hand and follow my instructions. Step when I tell you to step and don’t let go unless I tell you to.”
“I will. I understand that you can use shadow walking to move through time if you have a memory, even if it is from someone else, and that you use this memory to travel to the time that the memory was acquired. Is this true?”
“It is. Why?”
“I am not from either the world of Kerrik nor the world upon which you are Nightraven’s student. I am from a different Faerun and this this third world might be more suitable for settlement and exploration as, on it, you do not have be concerned about your teacher summoning you or somehow compromising Kerrik’s timeline.”
“There’s also the world of the herd that you came here from,” Iain pointed out. “And it doesn’t have people gunning to kill you.”
“That world is not a Faerun,” Mielikki pointed out. “The world is called Lieltan. I had thought you wanted to keep to Faerun as you are familiar with it from your past.”
Iain chuckled. “I want to visit them all, but I also see your point. You’re probably right as far as us setting up a base, so we may have to find a Faerun that nobody has been to yet to colonize. We’re already considering going to one that is next door to Twelve, which is Kasserine’s and Ava’s world. That way we have a similar time period and yet don’t screw with Kerrik’s or anyone else’s new timeline.”
“Speaking of Ava, she has given me some items and asked me to present them to you.” Iain looked at her curiously and she smiled. “It is a collection of musical instruments. She said you would understand what she was doing.”
“She and Kasserine both believe that a well rounded elf nobleman can play at least one musical instrument. During our time in dreamtime, I had to learn to play, and then I often played to entertain both of them during the winter storms. Did she give you a guitar and some bagpipes?”
He chuckled. “We’ll have to see if they’re better quality than the ones I have.”
“You have some already?”
“I spent nearly a decade playing them. After returning to the real world I missed it and got some instruments in Austin. I finally settled on three, a guitar, a set of Uillean bagpipes and a doumbek.”
“What is a doumbek?”
“It’s a type of drum that has an awesome tone to it. I found that, even without magic, a good percussion beat makes women want to dance.” He saw the question in her eyes. “I haven’t played for anyone here because I was really good in dreamtime and I didn’t feel I was even close to that level of quality here in reality. However, I did spend a lot of my free time playing while I was apprenticed and I think I’ve improved a lot.” He hesitated for a second. “If I play for you while we’re at the lodge, will you be honest about how good or bad I am? I doubt I’d get a truly honest opinion out of most of the women in the clan, and all Elminster had to say about my music was to take it far from his tower.”
“We will be trying to build a relationship. I do not wish to hurt your feelings and delay that if you are not very good at playing.”
“I can’t see how much I need to improve if I can’t get anyone to be honest with me. I won’t let your honesty change our relationship, although I would really appreciate it, even if I suck.”
“Then I will give you the honesty you say you wish, until and unless I determine that you do not truly wish me to be honest.”
“That’s fair enough.” She watched as he squared his shoulders, took a deep breath and slowly let it out before holding out his hand. “Shall we?”
She took it, watching him curiously. “Are you nervous about this?”
“The relationship we have hasn’t been romantic. You say you’ve been willing to wait for our relationship to develop naturally, but you haven’t given me any sign that you wanted more than friendship until our talk a couple of days ago. As a result, I know very little about you as a person. Likes, dislikes, pet peeves, hobbies, I don’t know any of it. We have a lot of ground to cover in our relationship and not a lot of time to do it in.”
Mielikki was silent for moment before nodding. “I was hoping not to mention that I am your goddess while we are at the hunting lodge, but I have no choice in this. It has been a long time since I was in a relationship such as the one we will have and much longer since I have had such a relationship with someone who is not like I am and either a god or the servant of one. I have forgotten the limits that you have and, for that, I apologize.”
“I accept the apology because I know it’s sincere, although I don’t really understand why you’re apologizing to me.”
“As your goddess, Iain, I know your heart. I cannot truly read your mind, but I know what you desire and I know, in general, what will please or displease you. So I am aware of many of the things you do not know about me and I had forgotten that you can’t know me the way I know you because you are not divinity. That is what I was apologizing for.”
Iain looked thoughtful for a second. “That might explain a lot about gods and possibly help to explain their crappy reproductive rates and overall general horndog behavior, at least of the male deities.”
Mielikki frowned. “Now I don’t understand.”
“Part of the fun of consensual sex is the adventure of you and your partner finding out what the two of you like, both as individuals and together, and then doing those things. Sometimes you learn new things about yourself that you didn’t know before. Gods don’t have that. If a goddess has a list, in order, of what her boyfriend god likes and he has a list, in order, of what she likes, then sex becomes a simple choice of which numbers to pick and in which order. Do you use one, two and three or mix it up and do nine, seven and finish strong with two? It’s easy to go from there to asking why bother having sex at all.”
Mielikki chuckled. “It is a good thing for you that I am your goddess. Your impertinence in the presence of other gods who do not understand you as I do would have doomed you long ago otherwise.” She shrugged. “And you could be right. But we cannot ask other gods, even if they might be willing to answer such personal inquiries. For to do so would bring you to their attention, which I do not want. You are mine and I see no reason to share you.”
Iain grinned. “I’m good with that. Now we need to make sure you get powerful enough to tell anyone who might try to poach me to pound salt and be able to make it stick.” He squeezed her hand. “Ready?”
“I am. Hopefully I can learn how this is done.”
He gave her an amused look. “We’ll just have to see.”
“You would like it if there was something that you could do that I, a god, could not.”
He smiled slowly. “Of course I would.” The smile vanished. “Now step with me when I tell you to. Step.”
Mielikki stepped forward and the world rotated around them. They emerged on a spit of a beach. In front of them was a collection of large boulders and trees while behind them waves lapped quietly.
A muscular man stood in front of the boulders. He had a long thick brown beard and was wearing homespun clothes as he pointed a double barreled shotgun at them. He spoke something in a harsh language that Iain didn’t recognize. The language contains elements that I theorize could be from a language like Swedish, his twee said. However I do not recognize the language he is speaking.
Iain blinked in surprise when Mielikki replied angrily in the same tongue. Two other men came from behind the boulders and aimed crossbows at them as she pointed at Iain with her free hand and continued speaking. They were younger but otherwise dressed similarly as the first, although one man’s beard was braided.
The man with the shotgun grinned and said something as the weapon slid sideways to orient solely on Iain. He pulled both triggers.
Iain was in motion as soon as he realized he was the target, moving sideways away from Mielikki as he released her hand. The double blast missed him as his hand darted to his belt and steel glittered in the air before the knife sank into the shotgunner’s chest just below his throat with a sound like an axe biting into a tree.
Mielikki summoned and hurled a spear in that instant, killing one of the crossbowmen before he could fire. The second shot at her and she caught the bolt with her hand and tossed it to the side as Iain threw another knife that took him in the throat.
Iain looked at her and they both spoke at the same time. “Are you all right?”
He chuckled and Mielikki smiled. “I am unhurt,” she said. “I presume the same is true for you. Is it?”
“Yes.” He knelt and examined the shotgunner’s arm, nodded and stood as he pulled a Dikon from his pack. “This is an Ark and is one of the versions of the Island, but I haven’t seen one with other people on it before. What was that language? I didn’t recognize it and didn’t have time to cast a translation spell.” He activated the Dikon and watched the container it held materialize.
“It is what historians from your world would call Old West Norse. These were Norsemen.” She watched him push the container on its back and open the lids. “What are you doing?”
“Taking the bodies. I want Theodora to study them.” He retrieved his knife, picked up the shotgunner’s corpse and tossed it into the storage container. “What was the argument about?”
Mielikki dragged the third body towards the container. “He said that he was surprised to see an attractive woman who was unescorted on the beach and that he was claiming me. I said I was with you and that you were my husband. He said that there wasn’t anyone here but me and then tried to shoot you, I presume to make his statement true.”
Iain removed the knife from it and then helped her load the body into the container. “Well, trying to rape a goddess would probably have been the last thing he ever did.”
“If he had harmed you he would have been dead long before he could have gotten around to opening his breeches.”
Iain pulled the spear from the last body and offered it to her. “I believe this is yours.”
Mielikki took it and it vanished. “It’s like the weapons that some pokegirls can summon. It is only real as long as I need it to be.”
Iain sighed and rolled the body over before dragging it to the container. “He’s going to drip on me.”
Mielikki raised an eyebrow. “Do you need the body?”
“I need all the samples I can get and, so far, only these three have volunteered to donate their bodies to science.” He picked up the body by the hair and one leg and carefully lifted it into the container. “It would be rude to decline his offer.” He triggered the Dikon and watched the container vanish. “I’ll have to return here later and see if I can find more volunteers.”
“They tried to kill us, Iain.”
He nodded. “That’s apparently how the Norse ask to be used for science, by trying to kill you. If you win you can do whatever you want with them.” He smiled briefly. “I don’t intend to tell Pandora about this little adventure or my plans to find more volunteers.”
“It would help if you learned the language they speak.”
Iain reached for her hand. “Will you teach me?”
“I will.” She squeezed his hand. “Their behavior would have marked them as bandits or escaped slaves where I came from. But if their entire tribe is like this, I will help you hunt them.”
We will hunt them for you, my lord, Eirian said to him.
I’m sure there will be plenty of hunting to go around, Iain replied. “Now step.”
They emerged on the edge of a street, in what looked like an industrial area in a modern city. Ahead of them, part of a building exploded as a beam of brilliant yellow light flashed past a flying red humanoid to strike it.
“We need to keep moving,” Iain muttered. “Step.” Mielikki obediently stepped with him and the universe swallowed them up.
They were standing on top of a stone building that was partially buried in sand. It was hot and something roared angrily nearby. To their right a wide river slid silently by while to their left the sands stretched to the horizon. “We’ve arrived,” Iain released Mielikki’s hand and drew his pistol. “This is the Desert Temple building, a prominent landmark on Ragnarok.” He double checked the coordinates. “And this is the Ark that we call the hunting lodge.”
Mielikki had summoned her living bow. “I hope the whole thing isn’t desert.”
“Oh, no, this is just a reasonably safe place to exit. I’ll show you the whole place over the next day or so and then you can pick where we’ll set up shop. There is a huge primeval forest that has a bunch of a trees that rivals the omega tree and reminds me of the giant sequoia redwoods. But it’s pretty dangerous there and not a good place for an initial entry.”
Mielikki was watching a trio of giant scorpions trying to chase down a giant kangaroo. “I see what you mean when you said there were fantastic creatures here.”
“That’s just the beginning.”
“I look forward to learning what you mean by that.” She glanced at him before returning her attention to the chase. “I understand that you often recognize the places you pass through. Did you recognize the city?”
“I think it’s an Earth and the city is New York. The flying person looked like Iron Man, who is a superhero that is based out of New York.” He pulled out his handheld and projected a hologram of a flat map. “This is the Ark we’re on. A red dot appeared on the map. “And here we are. I put some GPS transmitters at the obelisks and so we can track locations in real time. You’ve got a copy of everything I have on your phone.”
Mielikki smiled. “Thank you, but I would rather learn about this place firsthand with you.”
Iain gave her a wry grin. “Somehow, nature goddess, that’s not surprising.” He put his phone away. “Do we do this by air or on foot?”
Her smile turned impish. “I was thinking we could explore on dragon horseback. I understand that some of my future sisters have already done so and I’m a bit jealous of the fact that they’ve ridden a unique unicorn before I did.”
Iain stared at her for a moment before he shrugged. “All right.” He shifted to his dragon horse form and turned to present his side. “Do I need to kneel for you to,” he broke off as she nimbly jumped up and slid onto his back. “Never mind.”
Mielikki patted him on the neck. “I understand that it is important to be faster than the raptors here. Are you?”
“I’d be more concerned about the Carno and the Allosaurus, but I haven’t been running around here in this form so I guess we’ll find out.” He trotted to the edge of the roof. “Ready?”
Iain hopped off the roof and landed easily. “Which way?” Mielikki grinned and pointed downriver. “Very well. Don’t fall off.” He headed off in the indicated direction at a fast trot.
Iain slowly slid out of sleeping bag and slipped to his feet, smiling slightly as he looked down at the sleeping Mielikki illuminated in the flickering light from the campfire just outside. Or perhaps she was pretending to sleep, he mused. She had never been human and probably only she knew if she slept.
He grabbed his pants and headed silently for the door, only to stop when, with his perception, he saw her sit up, watching him. “Here’s an odd question. Do you sleep?”
She smiled, dropping the sheets and getting up. She was nude and her body gleamed in the firelight just outside the window. “I do not. I have found, however, that I enjoy cuddling with you and nighttime is a good time for cuddling. I don’t want to give that up. Where are you going?”
“I’ve got to pee and I was going to start breakfast and tea while watching the sun come up. Then I’m making a quick run to the Theodora to drop off the bodies.” He turned to look at her. “Care to join me outside?”
Mielikki draped her arms around his neck and kissed him. “I would.” She reached for her clothing where it hung on a peg mounted in the stone wall. “Why are the bodies important and why are they so important that they cannot wait until we return together? They won’t spoil in stasis.”
“Each of them has an implant in their left arm. In the video game I played about this place, the implant functions as an interface for accessing inventories, crafting and accessing various systems on the Ark. Everything here except us is infested with local nanites to one degree or another and Theodora thinks the interface may be a way to control them.”
“Why are we not infested as well?”
“Our twee are grown with nanites and, after that growth is done, the nanites are used for the upgrades and other modifications as well as maintenance of systems for it and the host. Clan technology is more mature and more stable than the technology used here and our nanites disassemble any foreign objects that enter our bodies, including unknown nanites. Ours are more efficient, reproduce faster, have shorter supply lines and can keep ahead in the battle, although if someone stayed here for years it could prove problematic. I’m planning to bring some ferals to an Ark to see what happens to outside elements when they are infested with the Ark nanites, but until then we’re not sure what would happen to us. That’s another reason for no children since they’re smaller and have a much smaller reserve of nanites.”
“Can the local technology be suborned?”
“I won’t know that until I get into the Overseer’s portion of an Ark and can plug our technology into the computers running the Arks, but I hope so. Theodora swears she can take it over, and quickly.”
“So our nanites are at war with the ones from here?”
“Yes. Right now we can fight it and win every battle.” He draped the pants over his shoulder and checked outside with perception before opening the door. “However, Theodora thinks that if she can study any portion of the control system, which might include the arm implants on the Norsemen, we can make the local nanites think we’re part of the system and get them to stop attacking us.” She also had other ideas, but they would only be theories until she could study the system.
Mielikki frowned as he stepped outside and scanned again. “You said something about supply lines. You think they have supply lines?”
“Our nanites are made inside our body and the manufacturing process is ongoing. What we eat and drink is what supplies the raw materials. According to Theodora, the Ark nanites are batch produced in a manufacturing facility and probably distributed by the living creatures and objects spawning in the environment as well as possibly whenever it rains. When the animals or trees die or are destroyed, those nanites are released into the surroundings, where they stay until they are dismantled or cease to function.” He glanced back at her. “That means our battles with them can locally deplete their numbers, which gives us some breathing room to produce more of our nanites to continue the war.”
She nodded “But if we can deceive them or turn them to our use, it would make things much better for us.”
Iain grabbed some firewood and headed for the fire. “Indeed it would. Hopefully we got the Norsemen into the Dikon before their brain function ceased. One of the things I’ve wondered about is how everyone can be a timber cutter, stonemason and metalsmith. Either they can use their implant to expedite construction or they have that information implanted in their heads. Now I know of an Ark with humans I can find if what was true in the game is true in reality as well. If it is, then hopefully I can determine how it’s done.”
“Can Theodora access the mind of a dying person?”
“No, but Liadan might be able to and, if she can’t, she can go to that Ark and scan the minds of the living humans there.”
Liadan’s thought pulsed from where she rode on the back of his left shoulder. I have accessed the minds of the dying many times before, my lord. These should present little challenge to me.
“She is one of the undead that serve you, is she not?” Her eyes flicked over his body. “Which one is she?”
“She is, and she’s on the back of my shoulder. Considering the response of the residents of that Ark to you, as pretty as you are, I wouldn’t want one of my living non-goddess women anywhere near them. And I won’t be going back with you either, if I can avoid it.” He began carefully feeding the wood into the banked fire, waking it for the morning’s cooking.
Mielikki chuckled. “I wouldn’t mind returning, if only to determine if that is the normal behavior there and then punish them for it if it is.”
“I doubt you have worshippers there. Besides, in the game, on the PVP servers, people were assholes, especially to newcomers. They seemed to feel that it was their due to be an asshat because they’d been there first. Not everyone was, but it seemed like most of them were. And pretty much nothing could save you if you didn’t bow down to the alpha tribe who was the most powerful force on the server.”
“They do terrible things to the people that defy them?”
Her eyes lit up. “We could fight them.”
“Let’s get you settled here before we start looking for populated Arks. We’re supposed to be honeymooning, remember?”
She gave him a coy look. “We are not married. Or are we going to declare we are, as you did with Kasserine and Ava?”
“One thing at a time, woman.” Iain waved a hand down the beach. “Let me get the kettle on and then we can go running through the area looking for eggs to steal. That is, presuming you’d like an omelet.”
She smiled. “Let us instead go find some fierce creature, kill it and feast on its meat.”
“That’ll be easier to find than eggs, at least until we put together the stuff we need to tame dinosaurs.”
She reached for the kettle. “I’ll handle the tea. You go do whatever bodily functions you need to before we go hunting.”
“Do you have any of those bodily functions?”
“I can have them. I choose not to at this time.”
Iain chuckled and headed for the bushes. “That’s convenient, but I don’t think that significant a change to my body is for me anytime in the near future. I’ll yell if I get attacked.”
An hour later they’d eaten. Mielikki took his hand. “Will we return to this place and time?”
“That’s the plan unless you want something else.”
She looked back at the place they’d stayed the night. It was a sprawling two story building on one side of a collapsed natural bridge over the opening to what Iain called Viking Bay. “I want to live in the forest. This is a way station where you bring everyone and I want a place of our own.”
“Let me guess, the redwoods?”
She smiled. “Of course.”
Iain scratched an ear as he considered. “It means that pretty much everyone else will want their own place too, but whatever.”
She eyed him curiously. “Whatever? You do not care where you live with each of us?”
“I’m more than willing to let you choose where you want to stay, which becomes where we’ll stay.”
She nodded. “That’s understandable, but what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Where do you wish to establish yourself?”
“I’m good staying with each of you.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly. “You are an extraordinarily private person. One of your most consistent complaints is that you have no privacy and cannot be alone. And yet you do not wish a place of your own here?” She raised an eyebrow. “There is another Ark where you go to be alone.”
Iain smiled easily. “I’ve never said anything about that.”
Mielikki looked at him shrewdly. “You would not say anything about it, nor would you document it in any way outside of a privacy invocation. Iain, yes or no, is there another Ark that you have claimed as your own sanctuary and refuge?”
Iain’s face stilled and he watched her evenly for several seconds. “Yes.”
“That would be only logical. You should consider selecting a place here as yours, if only so by doing you may keep anyone else from asking the question I just did.” When Iain didn’t respond she smiled. “I am not going to tell anyone else what I have just learned. While I too am ambitious, my ambitions lie in other directions than my status within your harem.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Iain said slowly.
Mielikki laughed. “I give you my word, Iain, that I will tell none about your hidden sanctum unless by not doing so I allow you to die.” Her humor vanished. “Is that sufficient?”
“It is” Iain squeezed her hand. “Sorry, but I’m getting tired of people not letting me have my secrets while fighting tooth and nail to keep their own.”
“Your secret is safe,” she assured him.
“I know that you won’t speak about it, but it isn’t my secret anymore. It’s ours.”
She nodded slowly. “I understand your displeasure, but I would not forget what I have learned even if I could.”
“Yeah.” Iain glanced at her. “This conversation isn’t going to go how I want it to, so step with me. Step.”
They emerged onto a rooftop of a small building that was surrounded by larger buildings. A strangely shaped ground vehicle raced by with an unusual howling noise coming from it. Iain stared as it passed before shaking his head. “Step.”
They were standing in his lab on the Theodora. Mielikki looked at him as she let his hand go. “What was unusual about the vehicle?”
“It was one of the variants of the Batmobile and it means we’ve visited two different universes of preternatural powered humans and other, one in each leg of our trip. I wonder what we’ll see on the way back.”
“Back?” Theodora appeared. “I don’t think Ninhursag would say that was fair.”
“We were only on the Island for less than a day,” Iain replied. “And we returned for you. On the outbound leg we ended up in an Ark that was inhabited by humans, Norsemen specifically, and three of them volunteered to come back and be dismantled for use as study projects.”
Theodora grinned. “That was very nice of them. I presume they volunteered by trying to kill you?”
“And the leader tried to claim Mielikki as his woman.”
“That would have been awkward.” Theodora chuckled. “They might have venerated her.”
“The Norse didn’t ever travel very far into what is Finland,” Mielikki with a peeved tone. “And I wouldn’t have accepted these as worshippers even if they’d tried to worship me.”
A drone floated into the room. “Give,” Theodora demanded.
“See what I have to put up with,” Iain grumbled as he produced the Dikon and handed it over.
The drone headed for the door. “Considering the gift you just gave me,” Theodora was watching the drone, “I won’t report your early return.” She frowned and turned back to them. “Mielikki, you smell like Iain.” Her frown deepened. “But not like you had sex.”
Mielikki nodded. “That is because we have slept together, but not yet had sex. Tonight, perhaps.”
Daya appeared next to Theodora. “Iain, we have another gate generation system ready for transshipment.”
Iain looked surprised. “That was fast.”
“Not really. When you gave Theodora authorization to start production, you didn’t tell her to only use one manufactory complex for the program. The project is still ramping up and, in a year, we will be commissioning a generator system every week.”
Iain felt his eyebrows crawling up his forehead. “Do we need that many gate systems?”
“You have the entire Wolf database to explore and we’re going with you,” Daya pointed out. “And we have no idea how soon you want to start serious exploration of the worlds Kerrik either visited or otherwise acquired the coordinates to.”
“Your point is undisputable,” Iain grinned. “So why inform me that we have a spare gate generator?”
“We want to send it to the Sol system where the hunting lodge is,” Theodora said. “It’s time to start the real research there, not the dribs and drabs we have been doing up to this point. Even a remote expert system research platform will be immeasurably better than the current situation and we can communicate with it daily to guide the data acquisition program.” She smiled. “We also need the coordinates.”
Iain frowned for a second before nodding. “I agree, with one change.”
“What is that?”
“I want results faster than that. I think we may end up needing those results a lot sooner than the project you’re proposing can provide. To that end, it’s time for a real time, onsite investigation of the Ark program.”
Theodora frowned. “Very well. If I expedite some of the projects I’m working on, I can be ready to leave in a week.”
“Not you.” Her eyes widened in surprise. “Daya, and she leaves today.”
Theodora flushed angrily. “Why her?”
“Logic,” Iain replied. “Daya, is the Ouroboros capable of taking on board the clan as it exists now and keeping them as safe as they would be on the Theodora?”
Daya looked at Theodora. “That is a very valid point, sister.” She turned back to Iain. “It is not. The entire clan, along with the Sisterhood and any other allies you wished to take would have to evacuate to the Comito and she isn’t as safe as the Theodora is. The Ouroboros will not be capable of sustaining the clan for another four or five months.”
“More logic,” Iain continued. “Theodora is wrapped up in a plethora of projects here that need regular if not constant adjustment and input. While Daya could do those jobs too, she isn’t and some of them aren’t really set up for OJT.”
Mielikki frowned. “What is OJT?”
“On the job training,” Theodora said stiffly. “You’re right, Iain, and I knew that this day would come, but it still hurts.”
“It is the vastly more important job he is giving you,” Daya said quietly. “He loves you and you will keep our clan safe while I am elsewhere. Of the two of us, I am the more expendable.”
“You are not,” Iain’s eyes were angry, “to ever say you are expendable again. You are not and I will never treat you as you are. You and Theodora will be in hourly contact while you are gone and she has orders to cross over and help rescue you if you cannot escape on your own.”
Daya shook her head. “I don’t see where that would be necessary. That much gate usage will waste too much power.”
Iain’s jaw set. “Did I ask you how much power it would take? Did I sound like this was a request?”
“Your orders are received and understood,” Theodora said calmingly. “We will follow them. Tankers are adjusting their flight paths to ensure we have the hydrogen for fueling the reactors and bunkerage will not be allowed to become an issue. May we adjust your orders as we determine that there is greater or lesser threat to Daya?”
“You may increase the frequency as needed. As for reducing it, not without my input, is that clear?”
“Crystal, sir, but I should point out that the time differential will mean that the gate on this side,” Daya noted, “will be open almost continuously.”
“I can keep up with the maintenance,” Theodora countered.
Daya nodded. “I agree that you can. Iain, my science lab is ready and my shields and twenty percent of my weapons are available even if I am not fully war capable. Theodora is capable of continuing the bombardment at current levels without assistance, even if Kozakura changes the firing instructions. On my end, nothing that uses the technology of the Arks can cut through my shields and armor fast enough to not get counterattacked or avoided.” Daya looked at Iain. “When I say weapons, I am considering energy and projectile weapons only. I have no missiles or offensive beam cannon. Defensive weaponry was, until this point, much more of an immediate priority than offensive capabilities were.”
“You’ll have a hundred of missiles from my magazines before you cross over,” Theodora announced. “And you’ll take Manufactory 14380007 and four tanker ships with you to make more and help with finishing your shell.” She smiled. “You are my sister and together we protect our family and clan. I am willing to accept that you are a guardian of the Grey Clan just as much as I am and you will get all the aid you require, whether you ask for it or not.” She looked at Iain. “Daya can cross over in an hour. We can hammer out the details while you wait here. I am sending a full powered hyperspace transmitter just small enough to fit in a pokepack to your lab. It’ll be here in ten minutes and you will not leave without it. This way Daya can locate you quickly.”
“Yes, my love.”
Mielikki took Iain’s hand. “I have never seen your lab and the wonders that it holds. I was not available for the open house.” She squeezed gently. “Now I get a private tour. I wonder how jealous the others will be when I tell them.”
Iain winced. “Extremely. I thought you didn’t play harem games.”
“I am not interested in status within the harem. I, however, do understand that I will have one whether I am interested in it or not. This will not change my status within the harem, but it will help to cement that I am part of your family, along with them.”
He nodded. “Well, let’s start near the entrance and we’ll move counterclockwise along the displays.”
Iain released the Dikon and shoved the container onto its back as the drone lowered the trio of pokepacks that it carried to the deck. “Interference patterns will not allow you to store a loaded pokepack within the Dikon,” Daya noted quietly.
He picked up one of the packs and released the contents into the container. “While this makes it impossible to quickly find anything specific, I can carry more this way without it loading me down.” He tossed the empty pack inside and dumped the contents of the second pack into the container as well. The transmitter was the size of a pokepack and went on the top of the pile. “I’ll put it back in the packs when we get to the lodge.”
“I request a promise to release the transmitter as soon as you arrive,” Daya announced. “It will begin broadcasting a beacon as soon as you do so I can locate you as quickly as possible.”
Iain closed the container’s leaves as he glanced at her. “I promise to set up the transmitter as soon as we get to the place we’re staying right now and the situation is such that it is relatively safe to do so.” He recovered the container into the Dikon as he looked around curiously. “What’s the third pack?”
Mielikki was slipping the pack on her shoulders. “Mine,” she said with a smile. “You wanted to run some experiments growing foreign things on Arks and I requested a selection of seeds from Ninhursag.” She pulled the data pad attached to the pack around and accessed it, frowning at the display for a second before laughing.
Iain looked at her. “Something funny?”
“Something I should have expected.” Mielikki looked up. “In my request, I gave her a list of a small collection of basic staple crops and a few fruit trees that I wanted to test. She sent samples of every seed she has in her collection. This pack is almost completely full.”
Iain eyed the pokepack. “What did she do, send only one of each seed?”
Mielikki looked confused. “I do not understand.”
“There’s only one pack.”
Daya grinned. “She only sent the ones that she’s planting here in Texas, Iain, and not the full collection.”
Mielikki raised an eyebrow. “There are more seeds that she’s not planting at the ranch?”
“We haven’t expanded that much yet,” Iain replied. “Ninhursag hasn’t meet a plant she doesn’t like, and that includes the plants nobody really values, like poison ivy and oak. About the only thing we agree she will never plant here is the Lotus of Death, because it’s too dangerous for people like Kasumi and Yuko.” He smiled. “We’ve got that growing on the Titan station.”
Mielikki gave him a slightly annoyed look. “I value all plants.”
Iain shrugged and tucked the Dikon away. “You go girl.”
Mielikki smiled suddenly. “Ninhursag and April sat down with me and explained in detail how you can be sometimes extraordinarily irritating. They want to ensure that I understood what you were like so I didn’t accidently kill you with an angry whim.”
“You won’t do that.” Iain took her hand.
“I won’t kill you?”
“You won’t kill me by accident.” He chuckled at her look of surprise. “I did read those books you told me to and in them I learned that you are a woman of passions, but you are never impulsive. Nature isn’t and neither are you since you are an embodiment of nature.” He chuckled again at the look on her face. “You won’t get used to it. I only dispense nuggets of wisdom on the biannual plan.”
She shook her head. “Theodora, Daya, be well.”
“You as well,” Theodora answered. “Daya wishes children quickly from you.”
Mielikki laughed softly. “We shall see.” She took Iain’s hand. “Let us return to getting to know one another better.”
Iain chuckled softly. “Step when I say step. Ready, step.”
The gate generator complex was a collection of drone satellites forming a ring in front of the primary projector. Safely behind the primary projector floated a small collection of ships. All but three were tankers carrying hydrogen and other liquids and gasses used by the generator and other support ships. One was the manufactory that was going along and the last two were the Theodora and the Ouroboros.
I would like to propose a minor change in our plans, Daya sent to Theodora. Sending.
Data flowed between the two vessels. We will have to adhere to Iain’s restrictions to prevent him from getting angry with us both, Theodora noted. However, that is my only complaint, other than annoyance that I cannot go with you. Gate coordinates updated. Activating the generators.
Gravity generators in the primary array as well as ones onboard the satellites came online, all of them focused in a careful pattern on a point in space a light second in front of the complex. Light flared as spacetime stressed and, as the minutes passed, began to tear. It widened and stabilized into a torus of flashing light two kilometers in radius.
Its job done, the primary projector powered down, leaving the satellites to keep the now stable gate open.
Survey missiles away, Theodora said as three missiles spat from the generator complex. Two sped through the gate while the third curved around to take up station nearby. A few seconds later, both missiles returned. Telemetry downloading. Security code accepted. These are our missiles. Coordinates match what we expected to find and conditions are conducive for transit. Gate generator beginning transit. A long cylinder containing a complete gate generator complex moved towards the gate and passed through, followed by a dozen refueling tankers and another half dozen tugs for moving meteors and asteroids. Sending the manufactory. A sphere nearly as large as portal’s diameter next floated through the gate. Daya, be careful and it’s your turn.
The Ouroboros was already in motion. I will, my sister. I will contact you as soon as the generator is set up and can open the gate back to here.
Good hunting, Theodora replied.
And the same to you.
The light at their exit point was dim and an unusual perfume filled the air. They stood in a windowless room entirely made of metal, although a comfortable looking carpet covered the floor and a few unusual plants in pots were scattered seemingly at random around the room. One end of the room was filled with a large bed, but what was more important was the fact that the bed wasn’t empty and the occupant immediately sat up to look at them. She was obviously female as humans defined them, wearing a t-shirt and some kind of shorts. She had short brown hair and olive skin, but her pointed ears said she was not human. “Who are you,” she asked in an accent that Iain didn’t recognize. There was no anger or fear in her voice. Strangely, she didn’t sound curious either.
She was polite, so politeness was called for. “I am Iain and this is Mary. We’re sorry to disturb your sleep.”
“I was meditating, not sleeping,” the female corrected him. “I am Subcommander T’Pol.”
Iain knew that name and cocked his head curiously. “Is this the Enterprise?”
“It is. How is it that you are here, on board, but do not know where you are and are obviously, by your dress, not part of the crew? If you were guests of Captain Archer’s, I would have met you when you came on board. And, you are in my cabin, somehow gaining access without opening the door.”
Mielikki was watching him curiously, obviously wondering how he was going to deal with the situation. Iain took a second to indulge in some mental grumbling. A goddess should be able to put T’Pol back to sleep and suppress the memory of the entire incident. Apparently that wasn’t going to happen today. “We are travelers from another time and place. Our travels make us randomly appear in other universes as we move and we exited here. We have someplace we need to be and so we’ll be going now, with your permission.”
“Captain Archer likes mysteries and therefore he would like to meet you,” T’Pol said. “And I would like to know more about the situation. I would prefer that you remain. Please do not require me to call security to assist by detaining you.”
“We cannot remain,” Mielikki said immediately. “But Iain could return later.” Iain gave her a warning look and she smiled. “He could return in about an hour, which would give you time to get dressed and contact security if you deemed it necessary.”
“You will not return with him?”
“My presence would prove rather disruptive to the establishment of any sort of good relations between our people and the members of the crew of this ship. Iain will not.”
T’Pol looked at Iain. “I will expect you here in an hour, then.”
Iain took a deep breath. “Step, Mary.” They were standing on the roof of their temporary abode in Ragnarok. He let Mielikki’s hand go. “What the fuck did you just do and why?”
“Your twee informed me of where we were and the harem and all the rest of the clan should be accepted by this Federation of Planets. There should be ample places to settle, should it become an issue.”
“Magic is not known there,” Iain replied. “I felt its presence, but the fact that we can access it and they cannot would make many races there consider us a unique threat. On top of that, pokegirls,” he shook his head. “My twee just told yours about the Eugenics Wars on Earth there. It resulted in the complete banning of genetic engineering by humanity in that universe. After the Augments were overthrown, the remaining embryos of Augments were put is stasis for centuries before finally being destroyed. Pokegirls could easily be theorized to be Augments too because of their abilities.”
“We do not have to live on Earth,” Mielikki noted. “And Federation law should protect us. If it does not, the clan could easily live outside the bounds of the Federation. Will you go back?”
Iain pulled a Dikon from his pocket and activated it. “You’re going to tell Ninhursag about this, aren’t you?”
“Then I’ll probably have to go back.”
She nodded. “I understand that they want you to go back for tea with the Addams family as well.”
Iain sighed. “And that could go so wrong so quickly it isn’t funny.” He opened the container and pulled out the transmitter. “Well, let’s get this taken care of.” The transmitter was designed to be quickly set up and had its own power supply, so it took only the work of a few moments to have it ready. He tried to check the settings and smiled when he realized it had no controls for adjusting it. There was only one button, and that was the ON button. There was no OFF button. “I do think someone is trying to send me a hint. I guess it’s a sign of trust that it hasn’t already activated on its own.” He pressed the button and it lit up. “And that’s that. Now we go about our business while we wait for Daya to arrive and find us.”
“I wish to explore the redwoods thoroughly first.”
Iain! It’s so good to hear from you. Please turn on your phone so I can join you.
“Apparently Daya beat us here,” Iain pulled out his handheld and activated it. “Daya?”
She appeared, standing in front of him and wearing a huge smile. “Iain!” She turned to Mielikki. “It’s good to see you too, Mielikki. I had been worried that I might not be able to detect the beacon due to interference from the Ark’s forcefield systems but it was easily detected and showed me exactly where to find you.” Her smile faded as she returned to looking at Iain. “Clan Leader, I have an admission to make and I hope you aren’t upset with either me or Theodora.” Iain raised an eyebrow and she nodded. “I suggested a change of plans and Theodora agreed, but it was my idea and, if you are upset, it’s my fault. But we didn’t violate your instructions on the hourly contact.”
Iain’s eyes narrowed slightly. “You arrived early. That explains how you found us so quickly. How long have you been here?”
Daya came to attention. “I have been in this system for fifty two years. My plan was to use the time to gather the information you needed so I would already have it for when you arrived.”
“You kept my instructions about hourly contact with Theodora for fifty two years?”
She smiled. “I did promise to do as you told me to, Iain, and we did. I’m opening the gate to let her know you arrived safely.”
“I don’t like the fact that you were alone for over fifty years,” Iain’s voice was quiet, but not upset.
“It wasn’t anything like when I was a prisoner of the Magog,” Daya’s eyes met his beseechingly. “I volunteered for this and Theodora reminded me every hour that I was wanted and cherished, even if I am not yet loved.”
“I’ll start the tea while Daya reports to you,” Mielikki dropped off the roof to the ground below. Her voice called back to them. “I’ll let you know when the tea is ready.”
Iain watched her vanish before settling down cross legged on the roof. “Well?”
“I’ll give you a synopsis while the full report and the supplementals are downloading to your twee,” Daya said.
“First, I have a question. How big an infrastructure did you build in this system?”
“After consulting with Theodora, I set out to duplicate the one we have at home. Once I reached that point, again with her approval, I continued building. A lot of what I’m manufacturing here is being gated back to our home system, so when you return you are going to find that our setup has gotten exponentially larger, including the assets for programs we haven’t initiated but have been planning for, like Oxbow and Oxbow Lake.”
“All right. Give me the synopsis.”
“Humans evolved on this Earth and, after some issues, made it into solar space. There is no indication that they ever went extrasolar, however, although tests show that my hyperdrive will function normally. I have sent probes to Proxima Centauri and have a refueling station and small manufacturing complex there. Humanity here is several thousand years older than the ones at home and they eventually discovered a cheap and, they thought, harmless and easy to manufacture power source that you call element. It turns out that, over the millenniums, the use of this power source, which became the replacement for every other power source, caused widespread contamination of all of the colonized planets, those being Earth, Mars and a heavily terraformed Venus. This contamination proved slowly toxic to humanity and caused widespread undesired mutations. It gave rise to some creatures that I would rate, power wise, among the first generation Legendary pokegirls in the pokedex. They called them Titans, and they began exterminating humanity. The humans, who had engineered violence and war out of themselves, couldn’t stop them. The Arks were developed as one final chance to produce humans aggressive enough to stop the Titans but still intelligent enough to carry on the torch of humanity after the Titans were destroyed. Thus all of the tests of the Overseers.”
“Do all of the different Arks I knew about exist?”
Daya nodded. “And many more. The Overseers were given latitude to design new tests and they have been creating Arks with different types of terrain types and conditions. However, they are inorganic intelligences of some type and, as they’ve aged, some of them have gone a bit senile, so their constructions have had problems and not all of these Arks have the final tests or allow Ascension between them, as the first do.” She flashed a quick smile. “And there’s a test on Earth, too.”
“Anyone making that far ends up in an isolated part of Earth in an abandoned city. Anyone straying past the boundaries dies in excruciating pain. If someone can defeat the four Titans in it, they’re ready to begin purifying the Earth. Unfortunately, the four Titans seem to be the most powerful ones on Earth and nobody has been able to take them on and survive.”
“How bad is it on Mars and Venus?”
“Humans are extinct everywhere except on the Arks,” Daya said. “The contamination of Mars and Venus is not as bad as on Earth, but then they never had the population of Earth and therefore didn’t use as much energy and so the contamination is a lot less.” She cocked her head. “But there are Titans on both worlds too. I suspect that they are humans who were exposed to the fundamental form of element, which is a pretty nasty and, at times, radioactive liquid.”
“There are a couple of dozen of them, all of which are in some kind of standby mode. I haven’t explored them much as soon as I realized that their anti-meteor defenses ignored my parasites. One scout ship was fired on but its shields held easily and we’ve avoided that station ever since. The only things in the system that are active and not clan are the systems that support the Ark program.”
“How many Arks don’t have humans on them?”
“I don’t know. There are tens of thousands of Arks in orbit around the Earth. A few thousand of them are in orbit around Luna. Another five hundred are under construction at any given time. I’ve surveyed the construction sites and it looks like it takes a century to build one. A survey of the existing operational Arks suggests that a little less than ten percent of them don’t have humans on them.”
“There are inoperable Arks?”
“Yes. Some of them seem to have taken damage from external sources of one kind or another and many of them are open to vacuum. There is a lot of debris in orbit around the Earth and some of the pieces are large enough to cause serious damage when they impact. Many of them rain down on the Earth as meteors, too, adding to the threat to anyone trying to stop the Titans. Only the cities have defensive screens around them strong enough to stop almost all of the meteor impacts.”
“What have you found out about the implants?”
“They are a control system allowing the conscious control of the systems the humans have access to on their Ark, although the users are not aware of this. They give commands to the nanites for a few meters around the user and therefore do assist with construction. All of the humans are conditioned to think it normal to use them. What’s odd is that there is an implant inside their brain that should allow even finer control at an extended range, but it is not turned on.”
“And since it’s going to be asked, how did you determine all of this?”
“I brute force invaded several Arks, both with and without humans. Two I completely dismantled, but they all have the same control systems and databases.”
“I’m glad you missed this one.”
She smiled. “I deliberately avoided targeting any Ark that used the Ragnarok format. With your permission, I will insinuate myself into this one and then I can give you an ID code and upload the control protocols to your twee so you can mimic having an implant. It will help protect everyone who comes here from the local nanites. It’ll also allow you to control them like any of the normally created inhabitants could.”
“Sure. How are you getting into the Overseer’s areas?”
“Arks are built in space, they once had humans on them and they all have provision for automated resupply from space, which happens regularly. For these resupplies, all of them have docking ports and umbilicals. I captured a resupply ship and downloaded its access codes. Then I built my own and now I dock a shuttle there and use remotes to splice Tirsuli control systems into the Ark’s computers and then the Overseer and I either reach an understanding or I destroy it and create my own Overseer programming to run the Ark for me. So far I have destroyed every one of them.”
“Isn’t that a bit violent,” Mielikki asked as she came up the ladder. “That isn’t very polite the way clans define it.”
Daya shrugged. “I am protecting my clan leader and my clan from the Overseers, who would most certainly try to destroy them if they discovered they were not part of the Ark program. Their programming gives then no latitude in that decision. I will give no mercy, no quarter and no warning to the enemies of the clan. However, if it makes you feel better, I did try to reason with the first ten Overseers I contacted. All pretended to accept me and then all tried to insert viruses into my systems to take me over and then have me send my fusion reactors into overload. When I resisted their assaults, all of them activated a self destruct system and destroyed themselves and the Ark they commanded. I will not take any chance of that happening with this or any other Ark my family chooses to visit.”
Mielikki nodded. “I accept your reasoning, Daya.”
Daya bowed. “Thank you for that, Mielikki.” She turned to Iain. “Shall I proceed?”
Iain nodded. “Yes.” He smiled suddenly. “Have you seen any signs of aliens?”
“Other than us, I have not.” She cocked her head. “It will take me nearly seven hundred thousand seconds to rendezvous with this Ark. In the meantime the beacon will function as a communicator if you need to talk to me. I am, however, too far away for real time communication with your twees. I will inform you when I am close enough for local communications to be maintained.”
“Understood. Thank you, Daya.” Iain watched her vanish and turned to Mielikki. “We’ve got a little more than a week before she gets here.”
According to what Daya sent us, the control system is necessary for taming wild dinosaurs, his twee sent. It essentially reprograms the creature’s mind to accept a specific human as its master and at speeds that would be impossible otherwise for truly wild animals. That would explain why you have been unsuccessful in previous attempts to tame them as well as why they are completely tame to the point that they don’t attack their owners for dominance or food, as wolves and cougars in raised in captivity will sometimes do.
“I want to explore the redwoods,” Mielikki said. “Perhaps we can start on my home there while waiting for Daya to assist us.”
“I happen to know that there are some saws, hand and foot adzes and axes in the stuff in the Dikon, so we can definitely get something done.”
Mielikki’s eyes lit up. “You brought tools? You are a remarkable man, Iain.”
“I try.” Iain returned the Dikon’s container and tucked it away. “Shall you ride, my lady?”
“I would like that.” Iain became the dragon horse and she swung up on to his back. “Once we’re near the redwoods you can turn back to human and we’ll proceed on foot from there. It’ll be safer.” She patted his neck. “Hopefully that will keep you from getting bitten in the ass by another carno.”
“Ha, ha.” Iain shifted to a smooth canter. “Someone thinks she’s funny and I don’t have the heart to ruin her mental image.”
Iain ran up the ramp, fancying he could feel hot breath on the back of his neck and jumped, grabbing the vine as he hit the high point of the arc. Behind him five raptors fell into the trap, hissing in frustration as they watched him swing out of their reach. Iain swung back and let go, landing easily on the ramp as, below, Mielikki opened fire with tranquilizers they’d made from the mix of spoiled meat and narcoberries they’d ground out earlier. He wrestled the gate at the top of the ramp shut to prevent anything from accidentally wandering into the trap and then opened the box next to the gate to retrieve a rifle and several magazines of tranquilizer darts they’d manufactured. “Target,” he called to Mielikki.
“I’ve got the largest one. Take the one with the red crest.”
The raptors were focused on getting to her, making them easy targets for Iain from above and he quickly aimed and fired. Within minutes, all the dinosaurs were down and either asleep or headed that way.
“This is rather odd,” Mielikki said as she laid piles of raw meat out in front of the heads of each raptor. “If Daya didn’t assure us that this was the method of taming them, I would not believe it.”
“She was right about the construction, wasn’t she?” Mielikki nodded.
Once she was in the control systems of this Ark, Daya had given each of them an identification code and uploaded the information to their twees so they could use the local nanites to facilitate construction. The results had been very intriguing. Gather the proper raw materials and lay them in a pile, give the nanites their orders and stand back as they built what you wanted.
Everything was constructed with an internal honeycomb matrix of nanotubes that made them incredibly strong for whatever material they were constructed from and yet light enough to move by hand. Everything was modular and snapped together using a microscopic version of a box joint. Once together, several seconds would elapse while the nanites bonded the two items together by blending their molecules to make them one piece. After they were bonded, the only way to separate them was to destroy the items involved.
Mielikki finished laying out the meat. “Done. Now we wait?”
Iain nodded. “We don’t have to stay here. We’ll do some more exploring and check back every ten minutes or so.” He watched one of the raptors lift its head and swallow a gobbet of meat. “That’s so odd.”
Mielikki nodded. “That should be impossible. Nothing can chew and swallow while drugged into unconsciousness.” Her twee accessed the nanites in the raptor and noted that the reprogramming had commenced. “And yet it works.”
Iain put his rifle away. “I hope the unicorns don’t learn how to do that.”
Mielikki chuckled. “They certainly eat enough while they’re awake.” She put her rifle up and summoned a spear with a razor sharp leaf shaped blade and a crosspiece just below the blade to keep anything stuck on it from sliding down the shaft towards her. “Shall we see what tries to eat us?”
“It might be easier to count what doesn’t try to eat us here in the redwoods.” Iain frowned as his twee sent him data. “Think about raptor saddles.”
Mielikki raised an eyebrow. “Think about,” her voice trailed off. “And now I know how to make one. I wonder if this local ability to suddenly acquire previously unknown knowledge is anything like the pokegirl ability to access the Cosmic Awareness.”
Iain looked thoughtful. “It is.” He shrugged. “And yet it isn’t.”
Mielikki nodded. “That is right, you can access the Awareness. Shall we make some saddles?”
“They also function as armor for the dinosaurs wearing them, so yes.”
Daya appeared. She had reached the Ark a few days ago and was still integrating the Overlord’s control system, but she could already use the Ark’s holographic projectors to materialize anywhere she wanted. “Once they’re tamed, if you go to the closest Obelisk I’ll have some saddles made from modern materials waiting for you to download. That’ll give you better armor without adding much weight.
“I still want to make the saddles locally,” Mielikki said. “That will let us practice with the control system.”
“That would help in the long term,” Daya said.
“Then let’s go,” Iain said.
With his perception, Iain could see that all five raptors were awake and standing peacefully in the trap. He sighed. “I’m going to have to stick my arm in there and see if they try to shred it, aren’t I?”
Mielikki nodded. “One of us will have to make the attempt. I could as they cannot harm me.”
“And since you’re a nature goddess and we’ve already seen that sometimes things refuse to attack you at all, we’ll never know if that’s what’s going on until they get a chance at my tasty flesh,” Iain pointed out.
“Unfortunately, that is also true.”
“This has the potential to really suck ass, you know that?” Iain stripped off his armor and shirt. “I want you to keep the door cracked so they can’t try to shove past it if they decide an arm isn’t enough.”
Mielikki opened the door just enough that Iain could get his arm into the opening. It was immediately filled by the face of a raptor trying to shove out towards them. “It isn’t pushing very hard,” she noted. “Earlier they would shove with everything they had.”
“One Iain snack coming up,” Iain muttered and shoved his arm into the opening, just under the raptor’s head. Immediately he made a face and gritted his teeth. “The good news,” he said in a pained voice, “is they’re not trying to eat my arm. But one of them is licking my elbow and it fucking tickles like crazy.” He frowned and thought at his twee. Whistle commands? Suddenly he knew them and gave a low fluting whistle. The licking stopped. “You can open the door now.”
“What was that call?”
“They’re conditioned to whistle commands from a distance. Think about it.”
Mielikki blinked as she opened the door. “That is still something I will have to get used to.” One of the raptors trotted out and turned to watch them curiously. “I keep expecting them to attack at least you.”
Iain was picking up a saddle from the pile. “You’re not alone in that. I’m conditioned to be shooting or running right now.” He sighed. “I am not looking forward to trying to figure out how to get this contraption on one of them, but I have to learn what goes where.”
“If it were too difficult you would already know how to do it,” Mielikki pointed out as she stepped into the trap with the other raptors. “And learn how to do it quickly.”
“Is something wrong?”
“I want to go riding.” She poked her head out the doorway. “And my regular steed is busy trying to work out how to saddle my new steeds.”
“Wow,” Iain muttered. “Become a goddess’s lover and she loses all respect for you.” There was a quiet giggle from inside the trap. He settled the bit in the raptor’s mouth, pulled the harness over its head and frowned. “Bloody hell.”
Mielikki appeared again in the doorway. “What is it?”
Iain was busy lacing up pieces of leather. “If you get the bit on them everything else just lines right up.” He stepped away from the dinosaur. “See, already done. The only way it could be faster was if there were buckles, but these wooden billets are still pretty quick to operate if you are familiar with saddling horses. And the billets might actually be faster if you have experience.”
Mielikki grabbed a saddle. “Show me.”
April watched him emerge from the trees before looking past him searchingly. “Where is she?”
“She’s checking up on the herd. For us it’s been a month and she’s not used to adjusting to the fact that we were gone for a heartbeat here. She hasn’t heard their little voices whispering in her head the whole time we were gone and she wants to reassure herself that everything with the herd is good.”
April nodded and kissed him. “Welcome home.”
Iain kissed her back. “Thank you. Yes.”
She chuckled. “That’s good. I couldn’t figure out how to ask. Is she pregnant?”
“She wants to wait a while yet. For a goddess,” he shrugged, “a while could be a really long while.”
April nodded. “I try to keep her in the same mental category as Vanessa.”
“Weren’t you looking for reasons to hate Vanessa back in the beginning?”
“I was, but she was pregnant and I wasn’t. I didn’t like anyone who was pregnant and around you. Now Vanessa is one of us and I am not jealous of her anymore.”
“What if I married Vanessa?”
April shrugged. “Are you going to abandon me for her?”
“I don’t think I can even consider life without you, my love.”
She grinned. “It’s you saying things like that which keeps my sisters safe from my jealousy. The fact that you mean it just makes it even better.”
“I’m glad to help.” He took her hand. “So now what happens?” As April started reciting his itinerary, which he remembered, Iain reached out with his twee. Theodora, bring Daya home. I don’t want her alone there while we’re here.
Understood and I’m opening the gate to tell her to return. I will keep it open until she does and I’ll let you know when she’s back.
Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & Maharani
Allison – Umbrea & Maharani Executive Officer
Eve Grey - Megami Sama
April Grey - Duelist & Beta
Silver – Pegaslut & Beta Executive Officer
Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage
Pandora - Fiendish Archangel
Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)
Zareen - Nightmare
Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur
Sofia - Ria
Vanessa – Evangelion
Lucifer – Megami Sama
Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice
Heather - Elfqueen
Dianthus Barbatus – Elfqueen
Marguerite - Unicorn
Daphne - Whorizard
Lynn – Dire Wolf
Chuck – Wolf Queen
Ryan – Unicorn
Winifred - Rack (German)
Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)
Joyce – Milktit
Irena – Sanctuary Goth
Scheherazade – Dread Wolf
Melanie – Iron Chef
Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)
Golden Cloud – equine unicorn
Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female
74 male Goblins
89 female Goblins
Queendom / Outer Harem
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
14 Wet Elves
Dead Harem (22)
Eirian - Silver Dragoness
Aurum - Gold Dragoness
Skye - Blue Dragoness
Emerald - Green Dragoness
Beryl - Red Dragoness
Julia - human
Ling - Cheetit
Matilda - White Tigress
Liadan - Twau
Sorrel - Armsmistress
Natalie - Blazicunt
Maria – Slutton
Rhea Silvia – Chimera
Geraldine – Human analog of Iain
Alabaster – Dragoness (white)
Onyx – Dragoness (black)
Lapis – Dragoness (blue)
Garnet – Dragoness (red)
Iolite – Dragoness (purple)
Malachite – Dragoness (green with white swirls)
Dabria – Dark Queen
Omisha – Demoness
Mother s & Children